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Calling BULLSHIT

November 2, 2022
Written By
November 2, 2022
Season 3, Episode 7
25:43
Written By

Tom and Vivek jump on the pod for a special bonus episode to call BULLSHIT on VCs, CEOs, the “categorical shit,” and more. So strap yourselves in because the takes are HOT.

What’s a “fuck-it list?” Why does every VC need a time-consuming hobby other than investing? Are there any benefits to in-person collaboration, or should we all move to Zuck’s metaverse? Does more wealth beget more assholery?

A core value at super{set} is passion. Life is too short to phone it in. We bring our authentic selves to work and give our employees the opportunity to do their best. Yes, this extends to the podcast, too - so Tom and Vivek bring their most authentic selves to the pod this episode with some hot takes as they call BULLSHIT.

Whether it’s VCs, remote work and productivity, or fetishizing the CEO - we got the takes in this episode. Listen to what’s on Tom and Vivek’s “fuck-it list.”

Transcript

Speaker 1: Welcome to The Closed Session, How to Get Paid in Silicon Valley, with your host, Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya.

Tom Chavez: Welcome everybody to episode 10 of season three, Closed Session. My name is Tom.

Vivek Vaidya: And I'm Vivek Vaidya.

Tom: Wow. I can't believe it's been 10 episodes already.

Vivek: Yeah.

Tom: Good times, how they fly by.

Vivek: That's right.

Tom: Can we just say, we're here in the studio and just before kicking this off, we were trying to figure out should we put the headphones on so that we can hear ourselves and all of our glorious little tonalities? Vivek, you sound terrific right now.

Vivek: Oh, I know.

Tom: Because we decided to keep the headphones because we just look cooler.

Vivek: You think we look cooler.

Tom: I think you look really cool with headphones on.

Vivek: Okay.

Tom: And again, you're coming through full stereo.

Vivek: That's right.

Tom: All the notes, the highs, the lows.

Vivek: All the notes are coming through. How's the reverb?

Tom: It's good.

Vivek: Yeah?

Tom: Yeah. You sound good.

Vivek: Good.

Tom: Vivek, you sound good. Okay, I'm not going to do that either, maybe.

Vivek: Can we get back to the business of recording the episode, Tom?

Tom: Right. Well, let's get down to the episode. This time, as you can tell already, we want to chop it up a little bit this time. We've been so serious. You're such a serious person.

Vivek: For our listeners, Tom has been in one of his moods for the last two, maybe three weeks.

Tom: What? What is that about?

Vivek: Yeah, he has. Just look at his LinkedIn and you'll find out.

Tom: Oh, yeah. I see where you're going with this. I have been a little sporty late. I've just been deciding lately, as I get older, my bucket list gets shorter and my fuck it lists gets longer.

Vivek: I didn't realize there was such a thing as a fuck it lists.

Tom: There's a fuck it lists and it's getting longer, and that probably explains some of what... some of these little things I've been...

Vivek: So, are you chiseling away at your fuck it lists?

Tom: Yeah. Well...

Vivek: Yeah?

Tom: And that's what this session's about.

Vivek: All right, here we go then.

Tom: Right?

Vivek: Yeah.

Tom: Because you're so serious, every one of these topics, we have to come in and we have to talk very seriously about company building and product and teams and boards. But this time we just said, "You know what? Let's give ourselves the big piece of chicken."

Vivek: You just want to chop it up and say all sorts of things about all sorts of... I don't know what.

Tom: You're the one who wanted to go off. And I said, "Okay, let's do it."

Vivek: Okay.

Tom: So this episode is called Calling Bullshit.

The VC Wealth-to-Work Ratio

Vivek: What's the first thing you want to call bullshit on, Tom? What's your favorite thing you want to rant on today? Let's actually cross one thing off your fuck it list. Here we go.

Tom: Okay. So, it's a topic I think that is on lots of people's minds. Look, you have these venture capitalists, God bless them, and as we've said in many of these podcasts, we've been very fortunate to work with a number of very intelligent, very helpful VCs. But I think we can all agree that in the history of capitalism, you've never had a profession with a wealth-to-work ratio as out of control as this one.

And what spurred this is we had a board meeting last week and one of our venture capitalists, who's a very esteemed fellow, actually flies in for the board meeting from Boston, okay, that's commitment and I mean, in a time when everyone's just showing up on Zoom, flies in and... Wait, wait, this is a board meeting in August where nobody else-

Vivek: In the middle of August.

Tom: In the middle of August. Who calls a board meeting in the middle of August? Well, hard-working entrepreneurs who don't know that it's August, and we're just working, working, working like we do. And so, we're not going to put this person on the spot by calling him out, because I don't know if he wants that, but we salute him because there aren't that many VCs who are going to come out for a board meeting in the middle of August. And actually, he made a point of telling us, what did he tell us?

Vivek: He said that, "Well, because no one is working and I am, I get access to deals that other people don't."

Tom: That's thing one.

Vivek: Just to your point, Tom, entrepreneurs don't realize, "Oh, it's August, so we don't have to work." Entrepreneurs are always working.

Tom: That's right. So he's working and he's looking for edge and he probably deserves all of the added benefit that he gets from showing up in August. I remember that he also said early on, he realized that this was a thing, this was a dynamic in his industry, and he wanted to be known as the VC who's going to show up in August.

But the whole point here, and this is the first thing that we're calling attention to, is my goodness, really? All of August? And wait, wait, you don't just take August off, all of November, and all of December. And the rest of the time... By the way, there's another prominent VC who... And this is anecdote, but apparently would coach younger VCs to, "If you're going to be a VC, you need to have a major, super time-consuming hobby."

Vivek: Wow. And it's because of all the free time they have?

Tom: That's right. You have to have free time. And there's actually a lot of wisdom in the advice. I know I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth here because a good VC shouldn't be helicoptering. And we talked about that in past podcasts as well, and good board members who are like VCs who are there when you need them and importantly not there when they're not needed. And that's I think the gist or I would conjecture, that's the central point behind the advice he's giving young VCs is don't be in places where you're not needed. And to that end, have a hobby that keeps you busy.

Vivek: Carpentry.

Tom: Carpentry, professional balloon blowing upper, you could be a elephant circus trainer. Lots of things.

Vivek: Knitting.

Tom: Knitting, which is what you like to do.

Vivek: That's right. See, I threw it in just for you.

Tom: That's so nice of you. For our listeners, when Vivek travels, he shows up at the airport, literally, and I'm not making this up, two and a half hours before the flight-

Vivek: It's two and a half hours now, huh?

Tom: ... opens up his little kit and just starts knitting darling socks like a medieval babushka, there just-

Vivek: That's why Tom doesn't have to buy any socks.

Tom: ... knitting in the airport. It's adorable. But anyway, so look, I mean, VCs, it's a great gig. It's a great, great gig. And I think that for the ones who have empathy for and understand that the entrepreneurs they're supporting are actually there busting rocks, bleeding, sweating, toiling to make these companies work, and I know good VCs understand that, but it makes an Albuquerque boy like me wonder sometimes like, "How sustainable is that, really?" What do you think about that?

Vivek: I don't know. I think it's an interesting question to consider because if you think about Gold Rush happened, management consultants happened, VCs happened, and now what?

Tom: Yeah. Well, see, I mean, look, markets are efficient, and to your point I remember, I think in the '80s, everybody want to be a management consultant, then you should fly around in fancy clothes and you get paid a lot of money to give people advice. And then everybody wanted... When I was graduating from college, everybody was headed to Wall Street. That was the thing to do.

And it strikes me that VCs, you have so many people trying to become VCs now. There's only so many of those roles. Yeah, it's grown and there's a lot of capital slushing around, so that can support more of those roles for other baby VCs who want to try to get in the boat and there's a rising supply of quality deals, but I conjecture that you don't have the same volume and velocity of quality deals in a way that's commensurate with all the VCs trying to get in and get that money. Markets are efficient. How long can it last? I wonder if it's the beginning of... If it's not a decline, at least a correction of some sort.

Vivek: Maybe. But if you think about it this way, if the number of VCs is increasing and the amount of capital that's coming into VC is also increasing and the number of people watching the movies, reading the books, and wanting to be entrepreneurs, that's increasing, then-

Tom: Yeah, it could be.

Vivek: ... the volume goes up, but quality will definitely suffer.

Tom: All of the non-linear dynamics that you just did in your head right there, ladies and gentlemen, that was real-time. You heard it. Now see, people can understand. I just show up at work and I point and grunt like a caveman and then Vivek does non-linear dynamics in his head to balance the system. Boom. Equilibrium point achieved. Bob's your uncle.

Vivek: Tom, I think you've had enough of this-

Tom: Should we just walk in the room?

Vivek: ... because our listeners will get tired.

Tom: Okay. Well, okay.

Vivek: They will get tired of just-

Tom: Well, let's keep them with us. Let's keep them with us and move on to number two.

Vivek: Yeah.

Tom: Should we move on to our number two topic?

Vivek: Let's move on to number two.

Tom: You want to kick us off?

Productivity in the Remote Work Era

Vivek: I'll kick us off. So we've been working in this remote work phase, for what? Three years now?

Tom: Yeah. Who's counting?

Vivek: Who's counting? And I'll have to admit, before the pandemic, there were days when I just used to love working from home. There was stuff that needed to get built and I would lock myself in my office, crank some shit out.

Tom: You are extremely antisocial.

Vivek: I'm very antisocial.

Tom: So there's that, too. But go on.

Vivek: Yes, yes. But now there's this whole like... It's become like this debate, this, "Oh, is remote work good? If remote work is good, then in-office, in-person work is bad." Right?

Tom: Right. It's also categorical.

Vivek: Exactly. Extremely categorical.

Tom: Are you with us or you're with terrorists.

Vivek: Correct. Correct. So, what do you think about remote work, Tom?

Tom: Look, well, as you know, I hate remote work, and I think we've talked about this in the past, I never knew... You and I have taken these Myers-Briggs tests when we work with teams, and we sometimes ask people to do that. And you're an E, right? I'm a slight E.

Vivek: I'm a slight E.

Tom: Yeah. But I'm not an extreme E.

Vivek: Yeah.

Tom: I'm married to an extreme E. My wife is very, very social. During the pandemic, I realized, "Oh my God," and I'm stinky, I don't want to get all goofy on you right now, but I missed you. And I miss everybody that we... I realized I'm a lot more social than I knew.

So I hate the exclusively work from home idea. And I also will see, and I've also said I have some motivational bias because I just want to see people, but maybe I'm wrong. Other people are just fine staying at home in their hovels. But anyway, Spotify came out recently and it's announced with some fanfare while they announced this work from home policy. And lo and behold, their retention has gone through the roof.

Vivek: Or duh.

Tom: Duh, right? Of course, your retention's gone through the roof. How's your productivity? See, that's the question nobody's asking.

Vivek: Yeah. And I think, actually, one of the reasons why people don't ask that question is that they always assume that when you ask the productivity question, you're costing aspersions on whether people are working or not, because it's remote work.

Tom: That's right.

Vivek: Okay, that's not the case. People may be working very, very hard, but are you actually getting the results you want? Because of all of the negative externalities that come into play because of remote work. If you're not set up for it, communication, collaboration, all of that takes a hit. So people may be working very, very hard, but your productivity does end up suffering.

Tom: And as we've discovered for ourselves, there were a number of things that we could do when we're home working in our little silos. But we also hit this wall when it came to ideation formation, there were these things that we realized we just needed to sit or stand at a whiteboard and jam in real time to figure it out.

In fact, there was this recent article that came at in the Wall Street Journal reporting, some research that some Stanford and Columbia guys did. It turns out, and it was a broad longitudinal study that shows you can execute ideas remotely.

Vivek: Yes.

Tom: Creativity, new ideas, that's really hard to do remotely.

Vivek: Yes. And that's what we found.

Tom: Right.

Vivek: We found that to be the case for ourselves too. Because every time we have to talk about new company formation or new product conception for existing companies and whatnot, the conversations end up being way more productive and useful when we're in person.

Tom: So we're now in person Tuesdays, Thursdays, usually Tuesday, Wednesdays, Thursdays.

Vivek: Correct.

Tom: We have somebody, what smacks call the-

Vivek: The five-setter.

Tom: The five-setters. We have some people who love being in the office every day, and that's wonderful. But what we've discovered is like, listen, there's magic that happens on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursdays. And it's unscheduled. You just have to have people standing around just kind of breathing the same oxygen, finishing each other's sentences, listening into random snippets as they unfurl during an average day. I don't know, man. So the rant here is just stop the categorical shit.

Vivek: Stop the categorical shit. Because we're also building an engineering team in India, not one, but now two companies.

Tom: Right.

Vivek: Right? So we're not sound like we don't embrace remote work or work from wherever you want. But we're saying, and there needs to be in-person... There are lots of benefits of in-person collaboration as well, which you just can't ignore.

Tom: It's a both end, got to find the goldilocks point.

Vivek: Yeah.

Tom: Should we move on?

Vivek: Let's move on.

Obvious VC Advice

Tom: Okay. So-

Vivek: About six months ago... No, not six months ago. Maybe four or five months ago. All this advice started pouring out because of the market, like recession is happening and VCs coming out and saying, "Tighten your belts and don't spend money in what... Duh." But some of that is also not the right kind of advice, no.

Tom: Right. So what Vek just asked is obvious VC advice, like you're saying, "Got to grow, sales, got to prioritize." And so, the latest obvious not so helpful advice is you got to tighten your belts. Well, and listen, we're proud of the fact...not-so-helpful By the way, we know of some companies, and I'm not casting aspersions here, but maybe I am.

Companies who spend money like drunken sailors on shore leave. And there's been a lot of that going on last couple years, right? We're proud of the fact that we're scrappy and he had nothing stupid, right? You've wanted an omelet chef and a personal sommelier and a makeup team in matching jumpsuits for a long time. And every single time you come and you say you want those things, what's the answer?

Vivek: You say no.

Tom: I say no, we're not going to do it. Okay. And you look sad right now.

Vivek: One day,.

Tom: For listeners who can't see, Vivek, he looks sad, but we're proud of the fact that we don't do that stuff. So in one of these contexts, right? We're sitting in a board meeting where there's a company that has 28 months of forward runway, 28 months with zero revenue to just cash from existing customers, assuming they signed out a new deal. 28 months.

And the really strong advice coming down the wire is you got to find way... In fact, somebody was suggesting, "Are there places we can cut here?"

Vivek: Cut.

Tom: Because you got to extend your runway right now. Maybe these folks know something that we don't know, but that just sounds like lunacy, right? There's this New Testament story where it's a parable that Jesus told where a father gives his sons bags of gold, one goes off and spends it stupidly. I remember one of them buries the bags of gold.

The father comes back from his trip and he asks his son, "What have you done?" And the one says, "Well father, you should be proud of me. I buried this bag of gold." And the father throws him out. And point being is you're supposed to have invested it. You're supposed to do something productive with it. So for me, when I hear about you got 28 months of cash, is there anything we can cut here? That sounds like bearing bags of gold. How about leaning forward? How about growing the company?

Vivek: But do it judiciously. Don't spend money like drunken sailor. Again, it's the same thing, the categorical thing, right? We were ranting about earlier. It's not one to the exclusion of the other. You can grow and do it in an organized manner, right? Don't be penny-wise, pound foolish. It's the other kind of way of thinking about this.

Tom: So, what cuts through this conversation, at least the last couple, is maybe we just don't like extremism and categorical Yeah. People.

Vivek: Yeah.

Tom: The truth is not always, but frequently, somewhere in the middle.

Vivek: Always.

Tom: So for any company builders listening, if you're getting advice that says, "Oh my God, comments are crashing earth, you got to bury your values of gold, duck and cover." Well, maybe, but if that's what you do with the capital that you've been given, then I don't see how... What about customers? What about revenue? Exactly. What about product you're supposed to

Vivek: Grow? Cause the thing is, if you're in a position right now where you have 28 months of runway, it means that some time ago, whenever you raised that money, you had a solid business plan that was scrutinized by VCs who gave you that money. You had plans to get revenue and all of that growth, et cetera. So that hasn't changed.

Tom: No.

Vivek: Your value proposition to businesses still hasn't changed. So, why do you want to cut anything?

Tom: Makes no sense. Makes no sense. All right. Our last one.

Fetishizing the CEO

Vivek: Last one.

Tom: And this one's juicy.

Vivek: It is.

Tom: And this is where you get to really stick it to me.

Vivek: No, why would I ever do that, Tom?

Tom: Well, because this-

Vivek: I'm just very amused, for lack of a better word, at all of these. So Adam Neumann's latest company, as you know, has received a 350 million investment from in recent Horowitz, right? And everybody's up in arms about it. Here we go again, white boy, toxic culture, VCs, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That's just another instance of fetishizing the CEO.

Tom: And that's the beef here, is we're living in a time where so many fetishize and mythologize the CEO in a way that first is not consistent with reality. There are some great CEOs, but they're trumped up into something that is not proportionate to the achievements and circumstances at hand. But second, it's really corrosive and it borders on irresponsible right?

And look, I mean, CEOs, let's just say it. CEOs are just human beings trying to get a thing done. And a lot of them, again, do remarkable things and we salute them. So we're not playing a hate in over here. All right? But the beef is when CEOs are just allowed to run off and do irresponsible things, and we all look at them and say, "Well, that's, Elon doesn't want to buy Twitter anymore." Well, guess what? You signed a $44 billion deal and it's a legal contract. And we don't live in Russia or China where people can just abrogate contracts willy-nilly. You signed a contract.

Vivek: Yeah, you have to honor it.

Tom: You don't want to pay. You don't want to buy it, so you come up with this about fraud, come on. Come on.

Vivek: Show me the robots.

Tom: We're calling bullshit.

Vivek: We're calling bullshit.

Tom: Right?

Vivek: Yeah.

Tom: Look, I mean, there's also the whole data robot mess there with the secondary sales when companies now, where people knew that the growth is not happening, and bad things are about to unfold and the results are about to announce. And then you have insiders selling shares, that's irresponsible.

Vivek: It's irresponsible. And there are many examples of that recently, right? Quite a few examples of that in the recent past.

Tom: There's the tone-deafness of... Okay. I'm laying off 20% of my staff as I'm buying mansions and yachts and all this other stuff.

Vivek: Or we just raised money three months ago and now we're laying off 25% of our stuff. Who does that? Who does that? And they're given so much latitude. That's the beef, right? That's our beef. They're given so much latitude.

Tom: And it's not that they... We're saying to forget that. Don't give them the latitude, take in the task, okay?

Vivek: Yeah, exactly.

Tom: Like if you look at this picture and you say, "That ain't right." Just because everybody else around you say, "Well, but they're the CEO and their... What do we know?" No, no, no, no, no, no. You have a right to your expectation that CEOs like everybody else, be held to contracts, rule of law, social norms and expectations as to what's proper or improper. So yeah, I mean, this is the thing that backs us just a little bit where... And we remember, like this time because you've been at this, you're really old, you've been at this for a while.

Vivek: I'm not as old as Tom, by the way.

Tom: Whoa. Whoa.

Vivek:I'm just saying.

Tom: Why you got to be like that?

Vivek: Oh, why I got to be like that?

Tom: This is ageism.

Vivek: Oh, maybe.

Tom: No calling ages, I mean, this ageism, I don't like it. But no, I mean, there was this time where it didn't seem like there was this kind of heroism and this triumphalist thing in the air in Silicon Valley where CEOs were so on.

I do remember when I was a puppy and there was this picture of Tom Siebel when he's leaning into the photo with his hand on his chin or his chin on his hand, and he's looking like a superhero. And I remember thinking, "Well, that's kind of silly." But that was rare, right? I mean, yeah, Larry Ellison carrying around and flying his jet and carrying on. But it didn't seem like such an epidemic.

Vivek: It wasn't that-

Tom: Of assholary.

Vivek: It wasn't an epidemic, but it's always been there. Like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Tom Siebel, Zuckerberg even, right? It's always been there. I think it's become... The proportion has increased significantly now, and that is the other problem.

Tom: And maybe that Max Pap to the earlier point about how much money slushing around-

Vivek: Correct.

Tom: ... the wealth.

Vivek: Correct.

Tom: Maybe this is just... But of course, what do you expect? But yeah, this is a numbers game. And more wealth begets-

Vivek: More assholes.

Tom: ... more assholary.

Vivek: Maybe that could be a theorem.

Tom: Yeah?

Vivek: Yeah.

Tom: Let's find a whiteboard and throw a bunch of notation on it-

Vivek: That's right.

Tom: ... that we no longer understand. And then just prove it, and at the bottom right, just say QED-

Vivek: QED.

Tom: ... so that everybody knows we're right. See, that's some CEO shit right there too.

Vivek: Yeah. Just go make it happen.

Tom: Right. Or maybe we just find somebody on our team's like, "Look, we know we're right. Don't even have to prove it, you do the math. Do the math."

Vivek: Yeah. We just write the QED.

Tom: And then we just write.

Vivek: And we will then... Our names will appear first-

Tom: Right, right, right.

Vivek: ... in the proof after yours.

Tom: I love it. I love it. You are so full of good ideas-

Vivek: Yeah, I know.

Tom: ... it's crazy-

Vivek: I know.

Tom: ... it's nuts. Well, there we have it.

Vivek: There you have it.

Tom: This was a very different kind of session than the normal affair.

Vivek: Do you feel cathartic, Tom?

Tom: I have exercised the demons.

Vivek: Yeah?

Tom: Yeah.

Vivek: Okay, all right. Good.

Tom: I feel good. How do you feel?

Vivek: I feel great.

Tom: Right?

Vivek: Yeah.

Tom: You look, you have a sort of serenity.

Vivek: Is that right?

Tom: Certain calm on your face right now.

Vivek: Yeah.

Tom: Really. It's nice.

Vivek: I'm glad to hear you say that.

Tom: Okay. Well, we worked it all out. And if there are any listeners still with us-

Vivek: Yeah, exactly. Because this-

Tom: ... at this point-

Vivek: We thank you then.

Tom: We salute you, we thank you. And we promise Vivek will get his act together in the next session.

Vivek: We will come back with normal programming in the next episode.

Tom: All right.

Vivek: But thanks for bearing with us.

Tom: Thanks, everybody. That's a wrap.

Vivek: All right.

Tom: See you next time.

Vivek: Bye.

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To SPAC or not to SPAC

Harpal Sandhu, a Silicon Valley veteran and friend of super{set}, joins Vivek and Tom and explains what the excitement about SPAC's is all about. How did we get from IPO's to SPAC's? What's a PIPE? And why does the $10 price show up? In this episode you'll understand why entrepreneurs might prefer a SPAC and how they navigate its possibilities and pitfalls with investors.

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From Watsonville To The Moon

This post was written by Habu software engineer, Martín Vargas-Vega, as part of our new #PassTheMic series.

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Not Just On Veterans Day

This post was written by Ketch Developer Advocate, Ryan Overton, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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The Balancing Act For Women in Tech

This post was written by Ketch Sales Director, Sheridan Rice, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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The Studio Model

What’s a startup studio? Is it just “venture capital” with another name?

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We don’t critique, we found and build.

The super{set} studio model for early-stage venture It is still early days for the startup studio model. We know this because at super{set} we still get questions from experienced operators and investors. One investor that we’ve known for years recently asked us: “you have a fund — aren’t you just a venture capital firm with a different label?”

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New Venture Ideation

Where do the ideas come from? How do we build companies from scratch at super{set}?

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Silicon Valley’s Greatest Untapped Resource: Moms

This post was written by MarkovML Co-Founder, Lindsey Meyl, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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Good Ideas, Good Luck

Coming up with new company ideas is easy: we take the day off, go to the park, and let the thoughts arrive like butterflies. Maybe we grab a coconut from that guy for a little buzz. While this describes a pleasant day in San Francisco, it couldn’t be further from the truth of what we do at super{set}. If only we could pull great ideas out of thin air. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.

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Data Eats the World

The wheel. Electricity. The automobile. These are technologies that had a disproportionate impact on the merits of their first practical use-case; but beyond that, because they enabled so much in terms of subsequent innovation, economic historians call them “general-purpose technologies” or GPTs...

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The Four Types of Startup Opportunities

In our last post, we discussed how data is the new general-purpose technology and that is why at super{set} we form data-driven companies from scratch. But new technologies are a promise, not a sudden phase change.

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VCs Write Investment Memos, We Write Solution Memos

When a VC decides to invest in a company, they write up a document called the “Investment Memo” to convince their partners that the decision is sound. This document is a thorough analysis of the startup...

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People, First

What does it mean to be a super{set} co-founder and who do we look for? Why is the Head of Product the first co-founder we bring on board?

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The super{set} Entrepreneurial Guild

Has someone looking to make a key hire ever told you that they are after “coachability”? Take a look at the Google ngram for “coachability” — off like a rocket ship since the Dot Com bubble, and it’s not even a real word! Coaching is everywhere in Silicon Valley...

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Why Head of Product is Our First Co-Founder

At super{set}, we stand side-by-side and pick up the shovel with our co-founders. Our first outside co-founder at a super{set} company is usually a Head of Product. Let’s unpack each portion of that title....

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Why I'm Co-founding @ super{set}

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder at MarkovML, describes his Big Tech and startup experience and his journey to starting a company at super{set}.

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Too Dumb to Quit

The decision to start a company – or to join an early stage one – is an act of the gut. On good days, I see it as a quasi-spiritual commitment. On bad days, I see it as sheer irrationality. Whichever it is, you’ll be happier if you acknowledge and calmly accept the lunacy of it all...

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The Product Heist

Tom and Vivek describe how building the best product is like planning the perfect heist: just like Danny Ocean, spend the time upfront to blueprint and stage, get into the casino with the insertion product, then drill into the safe and make your escape with the perfect product roadmap.

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Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

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Early Stage Customers

Tom and Vivek discuss what the very first customers of a startup must look and act like, the staging and sequencing of setting up a sales operation with a feedback loop to product, and end with special guest Matt Kilmartin, CEO of Habu and former Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Krux, for his advice on effective entrepreneurial selling.

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Overheard @ super{summit}

Vivek Vaidya's takeaways from the inaugural super{summit}

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How I Learned to Stop Optimizing and Love the Startup Ride

Reflections after a summer as an engineering intern at super{set}

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Why I Left Google To Co-found with super{set}

Gal Vered of Checksum explains his rationale for leaving Google to co-found a super{set} company.

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The Era of Easy $ Is Over

The era of easy money - or at least, easy returns for VCs - is over. Tom Chavez is calling for VCs to show up in-person at August board meetings, get off the sidelines, and start adding real value and hands-on support for founders.

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The super{set} CEO

Tom and Vivek describe what the ideal CEO looks like in the early stage, why great product people aren’t necessarily going to make great CEOs, and what the division of labor looks like between the CEO and the rest of the early team. They then bring on special guest Dane E. Holmes from super{set} company Eskalera to hear about his decision to join a super{set} company and his lessons for early-stage leadership.

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How To Avoid Observability MELTdown

o11y - What is it? Why is it important? What are the tools you need? More importantly - how can you adopt an observability mindset? Habu Software Architect Siddharth Sharma reports from his session at super{summit} 2022.

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When Inference Meets Engineering

Othmane Rifki, Principal Applied Scientist at super{set} company Spectrum Labs, reports from the session he led at super{summit} 2022: "When Inference Meets Engineering." Using super{set} companies as examples, Othmane reveals the 3 ways that data science can benefit from engineering workflows to deliver business value.

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Infrastructure Headaches - Where’s the Tylenol?

Head of Infrastructure at Ketch, and Kapstan Advisor, Anton Winter explains a few of the infrastructure and DevOps headaches he encounters every day.

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Calling BULLSHIT

Tom and Vivek jump on the pod for a special bonus episode to call BULLSHIT on VCs, CEOs, the “categorical shit,” and more. So strap yourselves in because the takes are HOT.

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Former Salesforce SVP of Marketing Strategy and Innovation Jon Suarez-Davis “JSD” Appointed Chief Commercial Officer at super{set}

The Move Accelerates the Rapidly Growing Startup Studio’s Mission to Lead the Next Generation of AI and Data-Driven Market Innovation and Success

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Why I'm Joining super{set} as Chief Commercial Officer

Announcing Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) as super{set}’s Chief Commercial Officer: jsd tells us in his own words why he's joining super{set}

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When and Why to Bring on VCs

Tom and Vivek describe the lessons learned from fundraising at Rapt in 1999 - the height of the first internet bubble - through their experience at Krux - amid the most recent tech bubble. After sharing war stories, they describe how super{set} melds funding with hands-on entrepreneurship to set the soil conditions for long-term success.

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Startup Boards 101

Tom and Vivek have come full circle: in this episode they’re talking about closed session board meetings in The {Closed} Session. They discuss their experience in board meetings - even some tense ones - as serial founders and how they approach board meetings today as both co-founders and seed investors of the companies coming out of the super{set} startup studio.

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Q&A with Accel Founder Arthur Patterson

Arthur Patterson, founder of venture capital firm Accel, sits down for a fireside chat with super{set} founding partner Tom Chavez as part of our biweekly super{set} Community Call. Arthur and Tom cover venture investing, company-building, and even some personal stories from their history together.

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Arthur Patterson on Venture Investing

Arthur Patterson, the founder of venture capital firm Accel, sits down for a fireside chat with super{set} founding partner Tom Chavez as part of our biweekly super{set} Community Call.

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Four Tips for a Distributed Workforce

This month we pass the mic to Sagar Gaur, Software Engineer at super{set} MLOps company MarkovML, who shares with us his tips for working within a global startup with teams in San Francisco and Bengaluru, India

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Arthur Patterson on Company Building

Arthur Patterson, legendary VC and founder of Accel Partners, sits down with Tom Chavez to discuss insights into company building. Tom and Vivek review the tape on the latest episode of The {Closed} Session.

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7 Ways to Turn an Internship Into a Job at a Startup

Chris Fellowes, super{set} interned turned full time employee at super{set} portfolio company Kapstan, gives his 7 recommendations for how to turn an internship into a job at a startup.

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Frida Polli, CEO and co-founder of pymetrics

Kicking off the fourth season of the {Closed} Session podcast with a great topic and guest: Frida Polli, CEO and co-founder of pymetrics, which was recently acquired by Harver, joins us to talk about the critical role that technology and specifically AI and neuroscience can play in eliminating bias in hiring and beyond.

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Diamonds in the Rough

Obsessive intensity. Pack animal nature. Homegrown hero vibes. Unyielding grit. A chip on the shoulder. That's who we look for to join exceptional teams.

read more

The RevOps Bowtie Data Problem

Go-to-market has entered a new operating environment. Enter: RevOps. We dig into the next solution space for super{set}, analyzing the paradigm shift in GTM and the data challenges a new class of company must solve.

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Alysa Hutnik, Chief Privacy and Data Security Architect @ Ketch

We are delighted to share our new episode of the {Closed} Session podcast with guest Alyssa Hutnik. Alyssa looms large in the privacy world, and she’s been thinking deeply about the intersections of data, technology and the law for nearly two decades. She’s also the Chief Privacy and Data Security Architect at Ketch, a super{set} company, as well as a lawyer. Hope you enjoy the episode!

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The Information: "TikTok Is Not the Enemy"

Tom writes a nuanced take on the TikTok controversy and outlines ethical data principles that will restore people’s sense of trust and offer them true control over how and when they grant permission for use of their data.

read more

boombox.io Raises $7M to Build Out Creator Platform for Music Makers

super{set} startup studio portfolio company’s seed funding round was led by Forerunner Ventures with participation from Ulu Ventures Raise will enable boombox.io to accelerate product development on the way to becoming the winning creator platform for musicians globally

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Building the Creator Platform for Music Makers at Boombox.io

On the heels of boombox.io's $7M seed fundraise led by Forerunner, Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya sit down with boombox co-founders India Lossman and Max Mathieu for a special episode straight from super{summit} 2023 in New Orleans!

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From Chords, to Code, to Chords Again: The Story Behind Boombox.io

super{set} founding general partner Tom Chavez wasn’t always set on a life of engineering and entrepreneurship – music was his first love. For a time, he was determined to make a career out of it. With boombox.io, Tom has combined the best of both worlds into a product that inspires and delights both the engineer and the musician.

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Horizontal Scaling at super{summit}

Vivek gives us the rundown on what the hive is buzzing about after super{summit} 2023: how to 'horizontally scale' yourself.

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Generative AI + Creative Work with Big Technology's Alex Kantrowitz

Alex Kantrowitz, journalist and author of Big Technology, joins Tom and Vivek in the studio to discuss his road to journalism, ad tech, and the business and ethical considerations of generative AI.

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Jamming with Habu’s Matt Kilmartin on Partnership Strategy

Discover how Habu, a trailblazer in data clean room technology, utilizes strategic partnerships with giants like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS to expand its market reach and foster the potential of an emerging category. Learn from CEO Matt Kilmartin's insights on how collaboration is the secret sauce that brings innovation to life.

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MIT Professor Rama Ramakrishnan on How ChatGPT Works

MIT Professor Rama Ramakrishnan joins Vivek on the pod to delve into the evolution of Generative AI and ChatGPT, as well as his own journey as an entrepreneur turned business school professor.

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Pivots and Possibilities

Discover how lessons from law enforcement shape a thriving tech career. Ketch Sr. Business Development Representative Brenda Flores shares a bold career pivot in our latest "Pass the Mic" story.

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The Future of Work and Talent in Tech

Does it matter where you go to college? Should the SAT be abolished? Do you have to have a degree in computer science to work in tech? What are the differences between higher education in the US and in India? Why did Tom and Vivek ban Harvard and Stanford degrees from working at their first company?

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AI Alignment with Brian Christian of 'The Alignment Problem'

What does ‘AI alignment mean? Can philosophy help make AI less biased? How does reinforcement learning influence AI's unpredictability? How does AI's ‘frame problem’ affect its ability to understand objects? What role does human feedback play in machine learning and AI fine-tuning?

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Hold Fast: Game-Changing Wisdom from Seamus Blackley

Creator of the XBox and serial entrepreneur Seamus Blackley joined Tom Chavez on stage at the 2023 super{summit} in New Orleans, Louisiana, for a free-ranging conversation covering the intersection of creativity and technology, recovering back from setbacks to reach new heights, and a pragmatic reflection on the role of fear and regret in entrepreneurship.

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An Intro to Product-Led Growth from MarkovML

Want to grow your product organically? This blog post breaks down understanding costs, setting up starter plans, and pricing premium features using MarkovML as an example. Learn how to engage new users and encourage upgrades, enhancing user experience and fueling growth through actionable insights.

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Building Tech on a Moving Regulatory Target

In an interview with Ketch co-founder Max Anderson, the focus is on data privacy laws and AI's role. Anderson discusses the global privacy landscape, highlighting Ketch's approach to helping businesses navigate regulations. The conversation also emphasizes data dignity and Ketch's unique role in the AI revolution.

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AI Hot Takes: Deepfakes, The Big Stakes, and What to Make

Is AI our salvation or is it going to kill us all? Tom and Vivek roam widely on others’ takes about artificial intelligence, adding their insight and experience to the mix. Along the way they consider Descartes, Ray Kurzweil, Salt Bae, Marc Andreessen among others. If you are looking for a down to earth conversation that tempers the extremes at either end of the debate, this is the one you’ve been waiting for.

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Lessons from the Startup Circus

super{set} Technical Lead and resident front-end engineering expert Sagar Jhobalia recaps lessons from participating in multiple product and team build-outs in our startup studio. Based on a decade of experience, Sagar emphasizes the importance of assembling the right engineering team, setting expectations, and strategically planning MVPs for early wins in the fast-paced startup environment.

read more

Navigating the Startup Journey from Launch to Finish Line

Are you a launcher, or a finisher? The balance of conviction, a guiding vision, and the right team to execute it all make the difference between entrepreneurial success and failure. Tom Chavez delves into his journey as a first-time CEO and the invaluable guidance he received from a key mentor.

read more

Understanding The AI “Alignment Problem”

Vivek Vaidya recaps his conversation with AI researcher and author of "The Alignment Problem" Brian Christian at the 2023 super{summit}.

read more

High-Velocity Personal Growth

What's the price you put on personal growth? In his most recent note to founders, super{set} Founding General Partner Vivek Vaidya outlines 7 points of advice for startup interviews and negotiations. Vivek explains his compensation philosophy and the balance between cash and the investment in personal and career growth a startup can bring. Here’s the mindset you need to reach your zenith at a startup.

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Harvard Computer Scientist James Mickens on The Ethical Tech Project

Are we walking a tightrope with AI, jeopardizing humanity's ethical core? Is AI more than just algorithms, acting as a mirror to our moral values? And when machine learning grapples with ethical dilemmas, who ultimately bears the responsibility? Harvard's Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, James Mickens, joins Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya on "The {Closed} Session."

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How Boombox Nurtures Customer Collaboration for Success

In a conversation with boombox's co-founder India Lossman, the discussion pivots to the art of fostering customer collaboration in music creation. Lossman unveils how artist-driven feedback shapes boombox's innovative platform, with a glimpse into AI's empowering potential. Understand the synergy between technology and user insights as they redefine the independent music landscape.

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ActiveFence Acquires super{set} Company Spectrum Labs

ActiveFence, the leading technology solution for Trust and Safety intelligence, management and content moderation, today announced its successful acquisition of Spectrum Labs, a pioneer in text-based Contextual AI Content Moderation.

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How Engineers Should Talk to Customers with Empathy

Do you get an uneasy feeling anytime you get added to a customer call? Do you ever struggle to respond to a frustrated customer? Peter Wang, Product lead at Ketch, discusses how customer feedback can help drive product development, and how engineers can use customer insights to create better products. Learn best practices for collecting and interpreting customer feedback.

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Tech Crunch: Answering AI’s biggest questions requires an interdisciplinary approach

Tom Chavez, writing in TechCrunch, calls for new approaches to the problems of Ethical AI: "We have to build a more responsible future where companies are trusted stewards of people’s data and where AI-driven innovation is synonymous with good. In the past, legal teams carried the water on issues like privacy, but the brightest among them recognize they can’t solve problems of ethical data use in the age of AI by themselves."

read more

Spectrum Co-founders Launch Nurdle AI

Justin Davis and Josh Newman, Co-founders of Spectrum Labs (acquired) launch Nurdle to get AI into production faster, cheaper & easier.

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Spotlight Series: Gal Vered, Co-founder of Checksum.ai

The {Closed} Session Spotlight Series showcases a different co-founder from the super{set} portfolio every episode. Up first: Gal Vered is co-founder and Head of Product at Checksum (checksum.ai), end to end test automation leveraging AI to test every corner of your app.

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The Product Mindset for Engineers

Ever find yourself scratching your head about product management decisions? Join India Lossman, co-founder of boombox.io, as she unpacks the product mindset for engineers. Unravel the art of synergy between PMs and engineers and delve into strategies to enhance collaboration and craft products that users will adore.

read more

Why Headlamp Health is Bringing Precision to Mental Health

Co-founder of Headlamp Health, Andrew Marshak, describes the frustratingly ambiguous state of mental health diagnoses - and the path forward for making mental health a precision science.

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Marketing in the Age of AI with Rex Briggs

How is AI steering the future of marketing strategy? With the convergence of AI and marketing tactics, Rex Briggs paints a compelling picture of what's possible: AI agents that revolutionize user interactions, and generative techniques that craft persuasive content. Drawing from his deep expertise in marketing measurement, Rex joins Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya to explore the cutting-edge of AI-driven marketing strategies. Listen for insights on harnessing AI's potential in modern marketing.

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Tom Chavez in Huffpost Personal for Hispanic Heritage Month

Writing in the Huffington Post: "My Mom Sent Me And My 4 Siblings To Harvard. Here's The 1 Thing I Tell People About Success."

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Developer tools that are worth their while: KEDA and Boundary in action

Running cloud platforms efficiently while keeping them secure can be challenging. In this blog post, learn how two of super{set}’s portfolio companies, MarkovML and Kapstan, are leveraging tools like KEDA for event-driven scale and Boundary for access management to remove friction for developers. Get insights into real-world use cases about optimizing resource usage and security without compromising productivity.

read more

Watch: Sandeep Bhandari Fireside Chat

Sandeep Bhandari, Former Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Risk Officer at buy now, pay later (BNPL) company Affirm, joins Vivek Vaidya, Founding General Partner of super{set}, in conversation.

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Spotlight Series: Andrew Marshak, Co-founder of Headlamp Health

The {Closed} Session Spotlight Series showcases a different co-founder from the super{set} portfolio every episode. Up now: Andrew Marshak is Co-founder and Head of Product at Headlamp Health (Headlamp.com), a healthtech company bringing greater precision to mental health care.

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Philosophy, Data, and AI Ethics with NYT Best-selling Author + Data Scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

From unpacking Google search patterns to understanding the philosophical underpinnings of big data, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz offers a unique lens. As the NYT Best-selling author of “Everybody Lies” and a renowned data scientist, he delves into the ways data mirrors societal nuances and the vast implications for tech and its intertwining with everyday life.

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Forbes: 5 Startup Studio Misconceptions

It's still early for the startup studio asset class - and we hear misconceptions about the studio model every day, ranging from the basic confusion of accelerators versus studios to downright incorrect assumptions on our deep commitment to the build-out of every company. Read Tom Chavez' latest in Forbes.

read more

Ringside Tales from Serial Startup Champion Omar Tawakol

Like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, the fiercest competitors can sometimes become friends. Omar Tawakol is a prime example. As the founder and CEO of BlueKai, he went head-to-head with Tom, Vivek, and the 'Krux mafia' for dominance in the Data Management Platform arena. A serial entrepreneur with roots in New York and Egypt, Omar eventually steered BlueKai to a successful acquisition by Oracle before creating Voicea, which Cisco acquired. Today, he's pioneering a new venture called Rembrand (rembrand.com), which innovates in product placement through generative fusion AI.

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Spotlight Series: Lindsey Meyl, Co-founder of RevAmp

The {Closed} Session Spotlight Series showcases a different co-founder from the super{set} portfolio in every episode. Today's guest is Lindsey Meyl, Co-founder at RevAmp (rev-amp.ai), a "Datadog for RevOps" platform that offers observability across the revenue engine, monitoring performance, flagging when something is amiss, and determining the root cause of how to fix it.

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Why Proprietary Data Is the Linchpin of AI Disruption

Read Vivek Vaidya's latest in CDO Magazine and learn why in this new AI landscape, those who harness the potential of proprietary data and foster a culture of collaboration will lead the way—those who don't risk obsolescence.

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MedCity News: It’s Time for the Tech Revolution to Come to Mental Health Diagnoses

Headlamp Health co-founder Andrew Marshak writes in the MedCity News that "We need to take inspiration from the progress in oncology over the last few decades and challenge ourselves to adapt its successful playbook to mental illness. It’s time for precision psychiatry."

read more

What Consumers Think of AI and Their Privacy

Everyone’s talking about AI - so The Ethical Tech Project decided to listen. Joining forces with programmatic privacy and data+AI governance platform Ketch, The Ethical Tech Project surveyed a representative sample of 2,500 U.S. consumers and asked them about AI, the companies leveraging AI, and their sentiment and expectations around AI and privacy. On the latest episode of The {Closed} Session, get an inside look at the survey results in a deep-dive conversation with the team at The Ethical Tech Project.

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Why the AI Revolution Will Be Data-Centric

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder of MarkovML, joins super{set} Chief Commercial Officer Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to discuss the role of data in gaining a competitive advantage in the AI revolution. Learn the difference between optimizing models and optimizing data in machine learning applications, and why effective collaboration will make or break the next-gen AI applications being created in businesses.

read more

Overheard @ super{summit}

Vivek Vaidya's takeaways from the inaugural super{summit}

read more

The RevOps Bowtie Data Problem

Go-to-market has entered a new operating environment. Enter: RevOps. We dig into the next solution space for super{set}, analyzing the paradigm shift in GTM and the data challenges a new class of company must solve.

read more

Why I Left Google To Co-found with super{set}

Gal Vered of Checksum explains his rationale for leaving Google to co-found a super{set} company.

read more

Forbes: 5 Startup Studio Misconceptions

It's still early for the startup studio asset class - and we hear misconceptions about the studio model every day, ranging from the basic confusion of accelerators versus studios to downright incorrect assumptions on our deep commitment to the build-out of every company. Read Tom Chavez' latest in Forbes.

read more

Q&A with Accel Founder Arthur Patterson

Arthur Patterson, founder of venture capital firm Accel, sits down for a fireside chat with super{set} founding partner Tom Chavez as part of our biweekly super{set} Community Call. Arthur and Tom cover venture investing, company-building, and even some personal stories from their history together.

read more

Lessons from the Startup Circus

super{set} Technical Lead and resident front-end engineering expert Sagar Jhobalia recaps lessons from participating in multiple product and team build-outs in our startup studio. Based on a decade of experience, Sagar emphasizes the importance of assembling the right engineering team, setting expectations, and strategically planning MVPs for early wins in the fast-paced startup environment.

read more

MedCity News: It’s Time for the Tech Revolution to Come to Mental Health Diagnoses

Headlamp Health co-founder Andrew Marshak writes in the MedCity News that "We need to take inspiration from the progress in oncology over the last few decades and challenge ourselves to adapt its successful playbook to mental illness. It’s time for precision psychiatry."

read more

7 Ways to Turn an Internship Into a Job at a Startup

Chris Fellowes, super{set} interned turned full time employee at super{set} portfolio company Kapstan, gives his 7 recommendations for how to turn an internship into a job at a startup.

read more

Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

read more

Tech Crunch: Answering AI’s biggest questions requires an interdisciplinary approach

Tom Chavez, writing in TechCrunch, calls for new approaches to the problems of Ethical AI: "We have to build a more responsible future where companies are trusted stewards of people’s data and where AI-driven innovation is synonymous with good. In the past, legal teams carried the water on issues like privacy, but the brightest among them recognize they can’t solve problems of ethical data use in the age of AI by themselves."

read more

Not Just On Veterans Day

This post was written by Ketch Developer Advocate, Ryan Overton, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

Why I'm Joining super{set} as Chief Commercial Officer

Announcing Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) as super{set}’s Chief Commercial Officer: jsd tells us in his own words why he's joining super{set}

read more

How I Learned to Stop Optimizing and Love the Startup Ride

Reflections after a summer as an engineering intern at super{set}

read more

An Intro to Product-Led Growth from MarkovML

Want to grow your product organically? This blog post breaks down understanding costs, setting up starter plans, and pricing premium features using MarkovML as an example. Learn how to engage new users and encourage upgrades, enhancing user experience and fueling growth through actionable insights.

read more

Silicon Valley’s Greatest Untapped Resource: Moms

This post was written by MarkovML Co-Founder, Lindsey Meyl, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

Understanding The AI “Alignment Problem”

Vivek Vaidya recaps his conversation with AI researcher and author of "The Alignment Problem" Brian Christian at the 2023 super{summit}.

read more

CalMatters: Why visa reforms benefit not just California’s tech sector but the economy overall

Vivek Vaidya writes that America needs more H-1B workers. Common sense reforms to the program will even the playing field for startups, not Big Tech, to bring innovative talent to American's shores.

read more

The Information: "TikTok Is Not the Enemy"

Tom writes a nuanced take on the TikTok controversy and outlines ethical data principles that will restore people’s sense of trust and offer them true control over how and when they grant permission for use of their data.

read more

Tom Chavez in Huffpost Personal for Hispanic Heritage Month

Writing in the Huffington Post: "My Mom Sent Me And My 4 Siblings To Harvard. Here's The 1 Thing I Tell People About Success."

read more

The Product Mindset for Engineers

Ever find yourself scratching your head about product management decisions? Join India Lossman, co-founder of boombox.io, as she unpacks the product mindset for engineers. Unravel the art of synergy between PMs and engineers and delve into strategies to enhance collaboration and craft products that users will adore.

read more

Developer tools that are worth their while: KEDA and Boundary in action

Running cloud platforms efficiently while keeping them secure can be challenging. In this blog post, learn how two of super{set}’s portfolio companies, MarkovML and Kapstan, are leveraging tools like KEDA for event-driven scale and Boundary for access management to remove friction for developers. Get insights into real-world use cases about optimizing resource usage and security without compromising productivity.

read more

Navigating the Startup Journey from Launch to Finish Line

Are you a launcher, or a finisher? The balance of conviction, a guiding vision, and the right team to execute it all make the difference between entrepreneurial success and failure. Tom Chavez delves into his journey as a first-time CEO and the invaluable guidance he received from a key mentor.

read more

Spectrum Co-founders Launch Nurdle AI

Justin Davis and Josh Newman, Co-founders of Spectrum Labs (acquired) launch Nurdle to get AI into production faster, cheaper & easier.

read more

Why Headlamp Health is Bringing Precision to Mental Health

Co-founder of Headlamp Health, Andrew Marshak, describes the frustratingly ambiguous state of mental health diagnoses - and the path forward for making mental health a precision science.

read more

When Inference Meets Engineering

Othmane Rifki, Principal Applied Scientist at super{set} company Spectrum Labs, reports from the session he led at super{summit} 2022: "When Inference Meets Engineering." Using super{set} companies as examples, Othmane reveals the 3 ways that data science can benefit from engineering workflows to deliver business value.

read more

Horizontal Scaling at super{summit}

Vivek gives us the rundown on what the hive is buzzing about after super{summit} 2023: how to 'horizontally scale' yourself.

read more

High-Velocity Personal Growth

What's the price you put on personal growth? In his most recent note to founders, super{set} Founding General Partner Vivek Vaidya outlines 7 points of advice for startup interviews and negotiations. Vivek explains his compensation philosophy and the balance between cash and the investment in personal and career growth a startup can bring. Here’s the mindset you need to reach your zenith at a startup.

read more

Diamonds in the Rough

Obsessive intensity. Pack animal nature. Homegrown hero vibes. Unyielding grit. A chip on the shoulder. That's who we look for to join exceptional teams.

read more

VCs Write Investment Memos, We Write Solution Memos

When a VC decides to invest in a company, they write up a document called the “Investment Memo” to convince their partners that the decision is sound. This document is a thorough analysis of the startup...

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Jeremy Klein on Leading super{set}'s Data-Driven $90 Million Fund II

Jeremy Klein is a general partner at super{set}. Jeremy helped build super{set} from day one alongside Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya, designing super{set}’s structure, recruiting co-founders, and laying the plans for a scalable buildout. super{set} recently announced the closing of its $90 million Fund II. He sat down with Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to provide insights into the strategic timing and vision behind launching Fund II, his professional journey from a legal expert to an integral part of super{set}'s fabric, and how his unique background and approach have been instrumental in building super{set} and recruiting top-tier co-founders.

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Former Salesforce SVP of Marketing Strategy and Innovation Jon Suarez-Davis “JSD” Appointed Chief Commercial Officer at super{set}

The Move Accelerates the Rapidly Growing Startup Studio’s Mission to Lead the Next Generation of AI and Data-Driven Market Innovation and Success

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We don’t critique, we found and build.

The super{set} studio model for early-stage venture It is still early days for the startup studio model. We know this because at super{set} we still get questions from experienced operators and investors. One investor that we’ve known for years recently asked us: “you have a fund — aren’t you just a venture capital firm with a different label?”

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Forbes: Why A Collaborative Approach Trumps "Lone Genius" In Company-Building

Off the heels of super{set}'s first exit - the acquisition of data collaboration company Habu by LiveRamp for $200 Million - Tom Chavez writes how the super{set} approach to collaboration in company building leads to successful outcomes.

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The Balancing Act For Women in Tech

This post was written by Ketch Sales Director, Sheridan Rice, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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From Chords, to Code, to Chords Again: The Story Behind Boombox.io

super{set} founding general partner Tom Chavez wasn’t always set on a life of engineering and entrepreneurship – music was his first love. For a time, he was determined to make a career out of it. With boombox.io, Tom has combined the best of both worlds into a product that inspires and delights both the engineer and the musician.

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super{set} Fund II: $90 million to intensify our serial focus on data+ai company building

Announcing super{set} Fund II

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super{set}’s Spectrum Detoxifies The Online Space

We are living in a time of extraordinary concern about the negative consequences of online platforms and social media. We worry about the damage interactive technologies cause to society; about the impact to our mental health; and about the way that these platforms and their practices play to our most destructive impulses. Too often, the experiences we have online serve only to polarize, divide, and amplify the worst of human nature.

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boombox.io Raises $7M to Build Out Creator Platform for Music Makers

super{set} startup studio portfolio company’s seed funding round was led by Forerunner Ventures with participation from Ulu Ventures Raise will enable boombox.io to accelerate product development on the way to becoming the winning creator platform for musicians globally

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How To Avoid Observability MELTdown

o11y - What is it? Why is it important? What are the tools you need? More importantly - how can you adopt an observability mindset? Habu Software Architect Siddharth Sharma reports from his session at super{summit} 2022.

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From Watsonville To The Moon

This post was written by Habu software engineer, Martín Vargas-Vega, as part of our new #PassTheMic series.

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From Suitcases to Startups: Why Immigrants Innovate

How are immigrants like entrepreneurs? Peter Wang of Ketch arrived in the U.S. at age 7 with two suitcases and a box. Read his story in the latest "Pass The Mic."

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The Four Types of Startup Opportunities

In our last post, we discussed how data is the new general-purpose technology and that is why at super{set} we form data-driven companies from scratch. But new technologies are a promise, not a sudden phase change.

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Building Fast, Scaling Globally

Harshil Vyas joined the super{set} Hive (i.e., portfolio companies community) in March 2023 as Co-Founder of Kapstan and employee number one in India. We jumped on a Zoom recently to talk about accelerated timelines, globally distributed workforces, and what is unique about the super{set} model.

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Pivots and Possibilities

Discover how lessons from law enforcement shape a thriving tech career. Ketch Sr. Business Development Representative Brenda Flores shares a bold career pivot in our latest "Pass the Mic" story.

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Jamming with Habu’s Matt Kilmartin on Partnership Strategy

Discover how Habu, a trailblazer in data clean room technology, utilizes strategic partnerships with giants like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS to expand its market reach and foster the potential of an emerging category. Learn from CEO Matt Kilmartin's insights on how collaboration is the secret sauce that brings innovation to life.

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Infrastructure Headaches - Where’s the Tylenol?

Head of Infrastructure at Ketch, and Kapstan Advisor, Anton Winter explains a few of the infrastructure and DevOps headaches he encounters every day.

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Too Dumb to Quit

The decision to start a company – or to join an early stage one – is an act of the gut. On good days, I see it as a quasi-spiritual commitment. On bad days, I see it as sheer irrationality. Whichever it is, you’ll be happier if you acknowledge and calmly accept the lunacy of it all...

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Forbes: Why The Biden-Xi Talks Should Put A Microscope On San Francisco

The prettifying and securing of downtown San Francisco, where super{set} is headquartered, should be the norm - not just for special state visits from the world's dictators. Here are 3 things the city of San Francisco should be doing all year round to make the city better to live, work, and invest in. Read Tom Chavez' latest in Forbes.

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The Era of Easy $ Is Over

The era of easy money - or at least, easy returns for VCs - is over. Tom Chavez is calling for VCs to show up in-person at August board meetings, get off the sidelines, and start adding real value and hands-on support for founders.

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Redefining Customer Experience in Data-Driven Tech Startups

Ted Flanagan, Chief Customer Officer at super{set}-founded Habu, sat down with Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to provide insights into how Habu's strategies in customer experience set it apart in the data collaboration market. Learn how customer experience strategies helped Habu land a $200 million after being acquired by LiveRamp in January 2024.

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The super{set} Entrepreneurial Guild

Has someone looking to make a key hire ever told you that they are after “coachability”? Take a look at the Google ngram for “coachability” — off like a rocket ship since the Dot Com bubble, and it’s not even a real word! Coaching is everywhere in Silicon Valley...

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Data Eats the World

The wheel. Electricity. The automobile. These are technologies that had a disproportionate impact on the merits of their first practical use-case; but beyond that, because they enabled so much in terms of subsequent innovation, economic historians call them “general-purpose technologies” or GPTs...

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How Boombox Nurtures Customer Collaboration for Success

In a conversation with boombox's co-founder India Lossman, the discussion pivots to the art of fostering customer collaboration in music creation. Lossman unveils how artist-driven feedback shapes boombox's innovative platform, with a glimpse into AI's empowering potential. Understand the synergy between technology and user insights as they redefine the independent music landscape.

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The Information: The People OpenAI Should Consider for Its New Board

Tom Chavez writes in The Information that "OpenAI’s board needs a data ethicist, a philosopher of mind, a neuroscientist, a computer scientist with interdisciplinary expertise and a political strategist."

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Hold Fast: Game-Changing Wisdom from Seamus Blackley

Creator of the XBox and serial entrepreneur Seamus Blackley joined Tom Chavez on stage at the 2023 super{summit} in New Orleans, Louisiana, for a free-ranging conversation covering the intersection of creativity and technology, recovering back from setbacks to reach new heights, and a pragmatic reflection on the role of fear and regret in entrepreneurship.

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Tech Crunch: Boutique startup studio super{set} gets another $90 million to co-found data and AI companies

Startup studio super{set} has a fresh exit under its belt with the sale of marketing company Habu to LiveRamp for $200 million in January. Now, super{set} is adding another $90 million to its coffers as it doubles down on its strategy of building enterprise startups.

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How Engineers Should Talk to Customers with Empathy

Do you get an uneasy feeling anytime you get added to a customer call? Do you ever struggle to respond to a frustrated customer? Peter Wang, Product lead at Ketch, discusses how customer feedback can help drive product development, and how engineers can use customer insights to create better products. Learn best practices for collecting and interpreting customer feedback.

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Building Tech on a Moving Regulatory Target

In an interview with Ketch co-founder Max Anderson, the focus is on data privacy laws and AI's role. Anderson discusses the global privacy landscape, highlighting Ketch's approach to helping businesses navigate regulations. The conversation also emphasizes data dignity and Ketch's unique role in the AI revolution.

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Four Tips for a Distributed Workforce

This month we pass the mic to Sagar Gaur, Software Engineer at super{set} MLOps company MarkovML, who shares with us his tips for working within a global startup with teams in San Francisco and Bengaluru, India

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Why the AI Revolution Will Be Data-Centric

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder of MarkovML, joins super{set} Chief Commercial Officer Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to discuss the role of data in gaining a competitive advantage in the AI revolution. Learn the difference between optimizing models and optimizing data in machine learning applications, and why effective collaboration will make or break the next-gen AI applications being created in businesses.

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super{set} Celebrates First Exit: LiveRamp to Acquire Data Collaboration Software Startup Habu for $200M

LiveRamp Enters Into Definitive Agreement to Acquire Habu, Reinforcing super{set}'s Unique Company Building Model of Founding, Funding, and Scaling Data+AI Businesses

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Detecting Software Bugs with AI

Gal Vered is co-founder and Head of Product at Checksum (checksum.ai), an innovative company that provides end-to-end test automation that leverages AI to test every corner of an app. He sat down with Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to discuss the exciting problem that Checksum is solving with AI and what Gal likes best about working in super{set}'s startup studio model.

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Podcast: Tom Chavez on How AI Startups Can Show Us What’s Next in Marketing

Tom Chavez joins the "Decoding AI for Marketing" podcast published by MMA Global and hosted by well-respected international marketing & AI experts Greg Stuart (CEO, Author, Investor, Speaker) and Rex Briggs (Founder/CEO, Inventor, Author, Speaker).

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Good Ideas, Good Luck

Coming up with new company ideas is easy: we take the day off, go to the park, and let the thoughts arrive like butterflies. Maybe we grab a coconut from that guy for a little buzz. While this describes a pleasant day in San Francisco, it couldn’t be further from the truth of what we do at super{set}. If only we could pull great ideas out of thin air. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.

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Watch: Sandeep Bhandari Fireside Chat

Sandeep Bhandari, Former Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Risk Officer at buy now, pay later (BNPL) company Affirm, joins Vivek Vaidya, Founding General Partner of super{set}, in conversation.

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Why I'm Co-founding @ super{set}

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder at MarkovML, describes his Big Tech and startup experience and his journey to starting a company at super{set}.

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ActiveFence Acquires super{set} Company Spectrum Labs

ActiveFence, the leading technology solution for Trust and Safety intelligence, management and content moderation, today announced its successful acquisition of Spectrum Labs, a pioneer in text-based Contextual AI Content Moderation.

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Why Proprietary Data Is the Linchpin of AI Disruption

Read Vivek Vaidya's latest in CDO Magazine and learn why in this new AI landscape, those who harness the potential of proprietary data and foster a culture of collaboration will lead the way—those who don't risk obsolescence.

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Why CTOs Should Care About Gross Margins, Cost-to-Serve, and Product Management

Why should a tech exec care about profit and loss? Aren’t our jobs to make the product great, and someone else can figure out how to make the numbers add up? That was my attitude for a long time until I finally appreciated the significance of gross margins for SaaS businesses during the early part of my tenure as the CTO of Krux.

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Why Head of Product is Our First Co-Founder

At super{set}, we stand side-by-side and pick up the shovel with our co-founders. Our first outside co-founder at a super{set} company is usually a Head of Product. Let’s unpack each portion of that title....

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